Recently I had the privilege of attending the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) World Leadership Congress (WLC) in Chicago through the generous donations from individual sponsors and the Champaign County Democratic Party.
HOBY’s World Leadership Congress brought together over 350 student ambassadors from across the United States and around the world for a life-changing week. Student ambassadors participated in activities that involved critical thinking, constructive discussion, and a focus on what it truly means to impact the world. Merely being surrounded with other cultures created an atmosphere that fostered openness and learning. At the conference, participants dealt with current real-world situations; for example, political tension between ambassadors from Taiwan and China; HOBY ambassadors from Iraq being denied access to the United States; policies and traditions within other nations; and gaining an outsider’s perspective of the country you call home.
The program itself was transformative. Many people are unaware of their true potential and WLC helped me see the leadership skills within myself. The student ambassadors spent 15 hours a day in rigorous workshops, seminars, and speaking or writing activities. One of the most valuable workshops I participated in taught each ambassador to listen and attempt to understand the viewpoint of someone we disagreed with. By publicly stating our position on very controversial topics, we were able to hear arguments from those that thought differently. Mind you, we had at least one ambassador from each state. This not only refined our leadership abilities, but also taught the participants processes on how to set and accomplish goals. I chose to work on the opioid crisis.
My mentors in Chicago encouraged me to take this issue of the opioid crisis and run with it. I am currently in contact with Senator Joe Schiavoni in regard to Senate Bill 154. The aim of the bill would be to redirect 10 percent, or $200 million, of the rainy day fund towards combating the drug epidemic in Ohio. Local communities would then be able to apply for funds through specific state departments in the form of grants. His office and I are currently in the process of organizing a day to discuss the bill. I have also begun to reach out to local organizations and programs that focus on reducing drug usage.
Hopefully, we can develop strategy and necessary tools to offset this growing emergency. I look forward to working with the county on this issue and others as we expand our presence.
Participating in the HOBY’s World Leadership Congress has changed the path of my life and I will always be indebted to those who saw the potential in me, and so generously donated so that I could attend.